Contrary to popular belief, an insanity plea in Texas isn’t a “get out of jail free” card. Instead, it can provide some context to the crimes that the defendant committed. An insanity plea doesn’t mean that the defendant didn’t commit the crime. Instead, it points out that they might not have understood right from wrong at the time.
How could the insanity plea affect your sentencing?
You might be able to plead insanity if you have a mental illness that legitimately affected your judgment and critical thinking skills. It’s not necessarily an excuse, but some people suffer from mental illnesses that are so severe that they can’t judge right from wrong. They might even think that they’re doing the right thing when they commit a crime.
When judges impose a sentence, they are not just trying to punish the individual, they are also sending a message to the community that they won’t tolerate this behavior. However, a mentally ill person isn’t the best example. If anything, the community might feel sorry for the defendant and believe that they shouldn’t be punished so harshly. Additionally, a punishment might not act as a deterrent for someone who doesn’t understand what they did in the first place.
For these reasons and more, a criminal defense attorney might suggest the insanity defense. If you successfully plead insanity, the judge might sentence you to time in a mental health facility instead of a jail cell. They might also require medical or psychiatric treatment to reduce your risk of committing another offense.
Is the insanity plea the best defense for you?
Keep in mind that an insanity plea isn’t the same as a not guilty plea. Your attorney won’t argue that you didn’t commit the crime, but instead will argue that you should receive medical treatment instead of incarceration. This plea can be difficult because your attorney has to show the judge that you genuinely didn’t understand what you were doing. If you were in full control of your mental faculties at the time, your attorney might suggest a different defense instead.